This year has been an incredible journey for me, I am halfway through a very intensive year-long training with the Tantric Institute of Integrated Sexuality, learning to use a tantric approach in my work as a love, sex and women’s empowerment coach. Alongside this, with the Temple of the Great Goddess in Rome, I am also two years into a three year training to become a Priestess of Aphrodite and Sacred Sexuality.
So how do these approaches interact and weave together? How does tantric philosophy fit with my ecospiritual beliefs as an earth priestess? And what does sacred sexuality have to do with earth-based spirituality?
Firstly it must be stated that tantra has been much misunderstood in the West. I’ve heard people describe it as ‘just a way to enjoy sex more’, or as ‘something invented in the 80’s’.
In the popular mind, Tantra has become equivalent to sex. Nothing could be further from the truth!Georg Feuerstein, Tantra, the path of ecstasy
The Tantras were a series of scriptures and writings from India, emerging around 500 CE, though some traditions and practices are older than this. They formed the basis of varied esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy that were revolutionary – not least because they were accessible to all, regardless of caste or gender, but also because they drew no distinction between spirit and matter, between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘profane’. In contrast to religions of transcendance, who depict the earth and the body with its material needs and appetites as something to struggle against and control or exploit, tantra teaches that this world and our own body, is a sacred temple. That if the divine is everywhere, it must also be present in the body. It teaches that the planet is both conscious and sacred, and of course this is also the very fundamental tenet of ecospirituality.
A Goddess Tradition
At the heart of the tantric worldview is goddess worship. The goddess as universal primal energy, the Great Goddess who gives birth to the universe then lives as the universe, the divine feminine power or universal Shakti, who is the animating force or power behind all things.
It is fair to say that most Goddess paths are fundamentally Tantric in natureSally Kempton, Awakening Shakti
We know from modern science that everything is made of energy, including matter. In common with ecospirituality, “Tantra sees this energy as sacred, divine, the expression of the feminine power within everything. In Tantra, moreover, human women are the earthly containers for the most intense form of sacred energy” 1 . Sally Kempton writes about how one effect of awakening to goddess consciousness was that she fell in love with the natural world.
There is a tendancy in Western thought to equate the feminine with passivity, receptivity and weakness. But those of us who see the goddess in nature know that although she is bountiful, generous and abundant, she is also destructive, chaotic and at times terrifying. She is both life and death. In tantric teachings she is identified with the kundalini or serpent power – the primal power. With a tantric approach to coaching, we are invited to embrace and embody all parts of ourselves, not only the beautiful but also the rage, the grief, the parts we would rather hide.
In all branches of tantra there is a principle of non-rejection, nothing is seen as intrinsically good or bad though it can be unharmonious in the wrong place. Much as a species may be innocuous in its native environment but considered a harmful invasive species when relocated elsewhere, right relationship is everything.
Ecospirituality principles urge us to live in right relationship with the earth, to honour nature’s cycles and to look for ways to live regeneratively in co-creation with natural forces. And similarly, Tao Tantric principles are based on living in accordance with natural cycles, seasons and moon phases, both within and without. Restoring right relationship with ourselves is one step towards right relationship with the wider world.
And one of the effects of embracing non-rejection is that a tantric approach to coaching embraces radical acceptance of ourselves, just as we are, in all our imperfections. If the goddess is in everything and everything is alive, then every part of you has consciousness and deserves love, respect and dignity.
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can changeCarl Rogers
“If you do not embrace yourself as a raw sexual being and are just fascinated by spiritual light you can get caught in spiritual bypassing – cutting yourself off from your true power and the juice of life”2
Sexual energy as life force energy, as divine, creative eros or Shakti energy is a concept common to both earth based spirituality and tantra. Regardless of how you choose to channel or express it, your sexual energy gives you your aliveness. It is no coincidence that the repression of women and sexuality have historically gone hand in hand.
There’s an underlying ripple of orgasmic energy vibrating through the entire universeLayla Martin
Tantra teaches that our original essence is pure joyful awareness, that the goddess is immanent within each of us, and that pleasure can be a doorway to the divine which can open us to the bliss at the heart of life. A tantric approach to sex and love coaching uses pleasure as a way to heal and transform and acknowledges that when we love all parts of ourselves, we liberate our sexual creative energy.
An earth based path embraces the natural world in all of its diverse glory, including our sacred sexuality and the healthy expression of our desires. Not rejecting the body, but rooting into the earth via the body, joyfully expressing our authentic sexuality beyond conditioning, fear or shame to allow us to be fully alive.
A tantric approach
I don’t teach tantra as I am not a qualified person to do so. But what I do embrace in my practice is a tantric approach. In real terms this means advocating for radical self acceptance, self love, embracing all parts of the self with compassion, and recommending pleasure as a form of nourishment and regarding sacred sexuality as a manifestation of the divine. As a priestess of the earth and of the Goddess I believe this is the path of love and I’m entranced by the weaving of the sacred into everyday life.
If you’d like to chat about opportunities to work with me 1:1, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1/ Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga, Sally Kempton
2/ Tao Tantric Arts for Women, Minke de Vos
3/ Tantra: The path of ecstasy, Georg Feuerstein
4/ Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach
5/ Kundalini Tantra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati